February Notes from the Nursery
February is a month of anticipation with spring just around the corner as new green shoots start to push their way through the soil. On milder days you can get on with winter pruning jobs along with cultivating the soil but on the wetter days’ time can be spent planning for the coming months.
This is a month for pruning woody plants. Hardy shrubs that flower on new wood such as Buddleja which can literally be cut right down.
If you have a greenhouse or conservatory it will soon be time to start sowing seeds but depending on the weather, it is sometimes better to wait until next month. If things are sown too early the plants will become leggy due to lower light levels and run the risk of being starved due to being in seed trays for too long. Later sowings will produce much better-quality plants for planting out towards the end of May. It is still a good idea to make sure you have a good supply of seed compost, pots and trays ready for when the busy season starts.
That said now is a good time to sow some early vegetables for planting out next month. Things such as Lettuce, Radish, Beetroot, Onions, Peas, Broad Beans can be started now along with chitting potatoes. All these can be started off indoors in preparation for planting out later when the weather improves. During this time, you can prepare the ground outside where they are to be planted by covering over polythene or cloches. This will allow the soil to dry out and warm up enough for it to be rakes over down to a reasonable level. Apply an organic fertiliser 2 weeks before this soil will be sown or planted into which will then allow nutrients to be available for the young plants to germinate.
If you have an area where Brassicas such as Brussels, Cabbages and Cauliflower are to be planted it is worth applying Lime about 2 months before planting. These Vegetables all like Alkaline soil and so depending on your soils Ph, which can be tested using a simple kit, it will govern how much Lime needs to be applied to alter the soils Alkalinity.
Now is a good time to plant Raspberries, Blackberries along with other types of berried fruit. If planting bare root canes make sure the soil is dug over and a trench made along the row incorporating plenty of organic matter. All but the autumn fruiting Raspberries will need support for the fruiting canes. This can be done by a post either end of the row with at least 3 horizontal wires strained between the posts. The other way if against a wall is to use vine eyes in the wall and attach the wires to these. Plant Raspberries about 18” apart. Blackberries and other berries need to be at least 5ft apart. Prune newly planted canes to 9” from the ground. This will help to encourage good strong canes. Tie the canes to the wires as they grow to support them.
With Raspberries there are autumn and summer fruiting varieties and for these there are different ways in which they are pruned. If you prune in the wrong way you run the risk of losing a crop that year. Autumn fruiting raspberries are pruned now and produce their fruit in august or September onwards on long canes that grow during the summer. Summer fruiting varieties will fruit on canes that grew the previous year. Autumn fruiting Raspberries should now have all their growth pruned to the ground. It is worth sprinkling a high potash fertiliser around the canes which will then give you good strong canes which in turn should give a good crop of fruit.
The stems of autumn fruiting Raspberries are quite sturdy and so should not need tying in or training. Summer fruiting Raspberries that have grown too tall for their support can be cut back to one or two buds from the top of their support or you can arch them over and ties them to the top wires. This will encourage more side shoots and therefore more fruit.
Lawns – During milder weather you can start to mow. This may seem a little early but in mild spells the grass will continue to grow. It does no harm at all to give the lawn an occasional light trim so long as the blades on your mower are set reasonably high. Just don’t do this if the lawn is soaking wet or frozen.
Any worm cast can be brushed away as I’m afraid there are no chemicals available that can be watered into the lawn to kill worms but in any case the worms do more good by breaking down organic matter and aerating the soil below the grass.
If you only have a few weeds in the lawn, then the best method is to just remove them by hand. Weeds with longer tap roots such as Dandelions which are too big to remove in this way might require a selective lawn weedkiller during the spring.
Turf can be laid this month on ground prepared earlier provided the soil is not frozen or very wet.
Prepare the ground for sowing grass seed. If the ground hasn’t been dug over then now is the best time. By incorporating organic matter it will help retain moisture and remove and perennial weeds and stones as you go will all help to give a good foundation for the seed to start germinating after you have allowed the soil to settle for a few weeks.
Containers – Check tubs, troughs and pots outside for water. Evergreen shrubs are particularly at risk of drying out as they are never dormant and always seeking moisture.
Plan now for your summer planting schemes in containers. Time spent planning what plants and how many is well spent. Its all a matter of personal choice on what you like but it is also worth bearing mind where the containers are. Whether sun or shade so the plants you choose are the right ones for the location. For example, as much as you might love Lavenders its no good putting them in the shadiest area of the garden as they will never thrive.
Top dress pot grown shrubs that have been growing in large pots for many years with a fresh layer. Scrape away as much of the old compost from the surface as you can. Then add fresh new potting compost along with some slow release feed. This will help feed the plants during the coming months.
Perennials – Finish weeding and digging over the borders and newly planted areas incorporating plenty of organic matter. Cut down any old, dead growth that was left on for effect over the winter. The sooner this is done the better, as new shoots will already be emerging from some plants towards the end of the month.
Pot-up Dahlia tubers stored during the winter and they will start to produce shoots that can be used as cutting. The tubers can be potted singly, or several can be put into trays. Place the tubers in good light and spray occasionally with water to encourage the buds to grow.
New tubers that you buy can be treated in the same way. There are so many different varieties available now and are still as popular now as they ever were.